It was obvious from the outset that the 4A district championship baseball game Friday between Greater Spokane League co-champions Central Valley and Gonzaga Prep was going to be a stare-down.
The Bullpups had their ace, Seth Kuykendall on the mound. The Bears countered with lefty Jeremy Yelland, and both were masterful. But CV’s hole card was No. 9-hitting Braden Page, whose two-out, opposite-field triple scored the winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning in a 2-1 triumph.
As a result, the Bears will host a regional game next weekend in a series that includes the Mid-Columbia Conference.
Yelland, who had 40 strikeouts during the league season, had masterful control of his repertoire, allowing just four hits and fanning 10, including GSL hitting leader Jack Machtolf (.519) three times.
“He had one blip on the radar against Lewis and Clark,” CV coach Mike Amend said of his junior hurler, “but he’s been phenomenal for us.”
The Bullpups had struck first with a bit of good fortune. Philip Reynolds fought off several good pitches by Yelland before singling up the middle to start the second inning. Blake Bonham’s bunt down the first-base line at first rolled foul, then hit a divot and bounced back in play for an infield hit.
Bo McGinn sacrificed the runners up and Dylan McGinn’s ground out plated the run.
CV caught a break of its own to tie an inning later. Connor Grytdal had opened the bottom of the frame with a single up the middle, moved to second on a sacrifice and was balked to third before Jase Edwards’ sacrifice fly to left tied the game.
The winning run came with two out in the fifth inning. Grytdal singled and Page ripped a shot to right-center field that carried between and beyond two Bullpups in hot pursuit.
“It was just in the spot I wanted and just kind of unloaded and it ended up in the gap,” Page said.
Yelland retired six of the final seven batters he faced, punctuating the win with his final punch-out.
“I was just so pumped on adrenalin I really couldn’t feel anything except throw the ball hard,” said Yelland, adding his change-up is his best pitch. But his other pitches worked and when he had to rare back he brought plenty of heat. “I’m pretty confident in myself and know if I do what I know I can do I’ll get people out.”
Both coaches said virtually the same thing. It was a clean, high intensity effort by two worthy teams.
“What it came down to was one great swing and they got it,” Bullpups coach Brian Munhall said. “It was two quality teams that hopefully will continue to do well next weekend.”